WP Kitchen in Charlotte

Our Girl Nosh May 2017 was supposed to be an super-hip restaurant Stoke.  Because it was on my birthday, we had a wonderful turnout…so much so that Stoke couldn’t accommodate all of us in their regular dining room.  We were going to have a private room and forced to order family style off of a very limited menu.  We decided that we wanted to try Stoke with a smaller crowd and started looking for a restaurant that could take us all.  Hello WP Kitchen!  You can thank Open Table for that realization, Wolfgang.

First, let me say they were so kind to us.  You can book a table for 12 online (nice!) but the group began to grow.  When I hesitantly said I needed a table for 20 they didn’t miss a beat.  They sat us outside in an air-conditioned patio that was private AND allows dogs.  It was raining that night, so the valet was a welcome service.

The decor is a mix between rustic and industrial.  I know that sounds conflicting, but it works.  They have the wooden accent wall that everyone loves so much right now, and then all of these industrial fixtures and utilitarian furnishings.  I dunno, I like it.

The cocktails were strong and they were delivered quickly 🙂  We all agreed that our food was amazing.  Even the simplest dish, like pizza margarita, was done with such care it was top notch.

Caesar Salad, my old favorite.  This one was tangy deliciousness!

What a special treat: soft shell crab!  This was crunchy on the outside, briny crabby on the inside…perfection!

Gosh, by the time desserts arrived I was so full I wasn’t too interested.  It was my birthday, though, so had to indulge 🙂  I chose the creme brulee, as per usual, and it was sweet, creamy and perfectly executed.

Myrtle Beach Hits and Misses

The Gay Dolphin Gift Shop.  Lots of stuff.  I mean, a lot.

Myrtle Beach Skywheel.  Tip: buy those tickets online.

Pirate’s Voyage.  Here’s my review on Yelp.  Dinner with a show!

 

Captain Juel’s Hurricane Restaurant.  Here’s my review on Yelp.  Sushi and Seafood with a view!

You’re here!

Full view of restaurant

Gorgeous Oaks near restaurant

Hushpuppies

Oysters on the half shell

Crab Dip

Spring Rolls…eh

Spider Roll

Sushi

 

Side Salad (look at that crouton!)

Gumbo

Crab Legs

Croissants.  Here’s my review on Yelp.  Best food in Myrtle.

Croissants

Acai Bowl

Strawberry and Nutella Crepe

Eggs Benedict, Potato Casserole and Ambrosia

Fish tacos

Chai Latte

Cinnamon Sugar Muffins

Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffin

Chicken Salad Croissant, Broccoli Cheddar Soup & Ambrosia Salad

Hamburger Joe’s.  See my review on Yelp!

Cheeseburger

MISSES 😦

Baron’s Steaks and Spirits.  Here’s my review on Yelp.

Filet Mignon with potato casserole

Chocolate Cake

Creme Brulee with Caramel Sauce

Margaritaville.  Here’s my review on Yelp.  It’s not horrible, but once was enough.

Margarita Hurricane

Watermelon Margarita

Crab Dip

Lava Lava Shrimp & Calamari

Taco Salad

 

the secret to happy

Man, if you live long enough, life will throw you curveballs.  It will give you tests you don’t pass, it will break your spirit.  We all have stories.

Life came at me and my family hard in 2009 in the form of a drunk driver hitting us head-on and changing our lives forever.  Changing me forever.  Broken legs, ankles, feet and now a knee has been added to the list.  That evening the doctors told my husband that they’d try to save my legs, but no promises.  Too much damage.  I woke up and they were there, but I was in for a LOOOONNGGG hospital/rehab stay.  Away from my family, my KIDS!  And life went right on.  During those long, often lonely months I chose to use most of my time being angry at God, plotting revenge on the idiot who hit us, and thinking about all I’d lost.

Fast forward to 2015.  Finally getting away from seemingly endless surgeries and doctor visits, horrible debt from being out of work for many years and finally feeling secure again…sort of.  For the first time in our married lives, our money was starting to get right, we had a new business, building our dream home after years in a small rental that we’d planned to be in a few months, our kids were great…then..divorce.  Betrayal. Terror.  ANGER.  Boy, have I got that emotion down.  

227884_10151022994506886_1981077224_n

It took me many months, over a year, ok so I’m still working on it.  Everything I did was motivated to show them they wouldn’t get me down.  I’d make more money, I’d finish this house, I’d be the best parent, I’d be the one with the least sin.  Don’t get me wrong, those feelings that pushed me to these goals had great outcomes, but happiness was escaping me.  True peacefulness.

It’s been over 2 years since I said I was done with my marriage.  Nearly 8 years since I thought I probably would never walk again.  It’s taken me that long to realize WHAT is important.  It wasn’t a job, or a bigger bank account or a new house and it certainly wasn’t being without sin…because I never managed that one.  The only thing that is important is your people.  That’s really it.  As long as you have people in your corner, your kids, your family, your friends, your church…you have it made.  Your tribe.  Oh…and the toughie…Forgiveness.  Yep, you gotta do that.

 

But here’s the thing, you do have to let it go…but you don’t have to STAY in a situation that is bad for your health…mental, physical, emotional.  You can love someone and still realize that you are worth being treated with love and respect.  THAT is my way of respecting the gifts God did give me.  

 

Forgiveness is something I had to try and try again.  It took me a good long while to get the hang of it.  But a good friend told me that this didn’t mean I didn’t get upset, didn’t stand up for myself, didn’t have to leave.  I can do those things too, and then forgive the behavior, the person, even if it isn’t asked for or reciprocated.  That’s what God commands of me.  I can’t say that I’m “religious” but of that I’m certain.

 

It occurs to me with all that’s going on in our world right now, why do we let statues get us riled up?  Why do we let a group of misguided people get us so bent out of shape?  Why do we (I) let our president make us want to fight with our friends or family?  Forgiveness: you gotta do it.  It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I can’t even begin to tell you the burden that has been lifted off of me.  I feel like I can live again, I can BREATHE again.  

 

I have friends whose children have cancer, who have battled it themselves, friends that have lost children, spouses, loved ones.  Don’t waste one more second on emotions that don’t bring you joy.  As a REALTOR I tell people to depersonalize…as a friend I’m telling you to hang up whatever pictures you need, wherever you can to remind you of why this life is precious and truly what is important.  The list is usually short.  It ain’t things.

 

Oh, and full disclosure…I still sin, still get mad.  The other day a dude didn’t give me a turn signal and I got so mad I called him a name.  Few seconds later my phone rings.  Turned out it was my neighbor, who apologized profusely for not using his turn signal.  So, God allows me to be humbled quite often when I trip.  And guess what?  My neighbor forgave me 🙂

 

My TRIBE ❤

 

Simply Good Sandwiches

Sandwiches represent a certain failing for me.  Whenever I can’t get a home cooked dinner on the table, I rely on this old staple to sustain my hungry people.  It’s a default if my kids won’t eat what I’ve made (yep, I’m one of those parents who don’t MAKE the kids eat what I fix.)  But I’ve learned that sometimes, when you make a sandwich, there is a certain comfort in being able to take your plate and eat in front of the TV while watching Seinfeld re-runs.  Here are some of my favorites:

Club Sandwich

Perfect for an easy summer dinner, especially with fresh homegrown tomatoes  Club Sandwich

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 slices toasted bread
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 slices American cheese
  • 4 slices shaved ham
  • 4 tomatoes, sliced, divided
  • 4 leaves lettuce, divided
  • 4 slices crisp bacon, divided
  • 2 slices Monterey jack cheese
  • 4 slices shaved deli turkey

DIRECTIONS

  • Spread mayonnaise on one side of a piece of toast; add layer of American cheese, ham, two slices of tomato, two leaves of lettuce, and two pieces of bacon.
  • Spread mayonnaise on second piece of toast and place on top, mayo side down.
  • Spread mayonnaise on top of that second piece of toast.
  • Layer Monterey Jack cheese, the rest of the tomatoes, lettuce, turkey and bacon on top.
  • Spread mayonnaise on third piece of toast and place on the stack mayo side down.
  • Slice the sandwich in quarters diagonally.
  • Skewers or long toothpicks may be used to hold all the layers together.

 

Grilled Chick N Wrappers

Grilled Chick N Wrappers

Grilled Chick N Wrappers

A wrap is a kind of sandwich, right?  I made this one for the family last night and it was a spot hitter.  You know, it hit the spot?  OK, so it comes together easily, and even though the word “grilled” is in the title, you just cook up the chicken in a skillet.  I suppose actually grilling it could only improve its flavor.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 cucumber
  • 8 ounces Monterrey jack and cheddar cheese blend
  • 6 slices hickory smoked bacon
  • 16 ounces shredded Lettuce
  • ranch salad dressing
  • 6 (10 inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 lime

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a skillet heat olive oil on medium.
  2. Cut the chicken thighs into strips and add to skillet.
  3. In a separate skillet, fry the bacon.
  4. While they are cooking, slice the onion, cucumber and set aside.

  5. When chicken is done and the bacon is done, remove from skillet and set aside.
  6. Assembly time. Heat the tortilla in microwave for 15 seconds.
  7. To the tortillas, add the ranch, lettuce, cucumbers, onion, bacon, cheese, and then chicken and squeeze a little lime juice over and wrap like a burrito.

Pressed Chicken Tortas

I got this recipe when I was using Blue Apron.  They have some really great recipes, probably the best service I’ve found.  This one seems long, but it’s just because they over-explain all steps 🙂  Give it a go.  Delicious sammy!

Photo credit: Blue Apron

  • 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 4 Torta Rolls
  • 2 Limes
  • 1 Romaine Heart
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 bunch Cilantro
  • 3 oz Queso Fresco
  • 3 Tbsps Pepitas
  • ½ cup Low-Fat Sour Cream
  • 2 tsps Chicken Torta Spice Blend (Ancho Chile Powder, Mexican Oregano, Smoked Sweet Paprika, Garlic Powder & Ground Cumin)

Wash and dry the fresh produce. Halve the rolls. Core, halve and thinly slice the tomato. Crumble the queso fresco. Pick the cilantro leaves off the stems; discard the stems. Cut off and discard the root end of the lettuce; roughly chop the leaves. Quarter the limes. Halve, pit, peel and thinly slice the avocado; top with the juice of 2 lime wedges to prevent browning. Peel and halve the onion; small dice 1 half and thinly slice the remaining half. In a medium bowl, combine the diced onion and the juice of 4 lime wedges.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels; season on both sides with salt, pepper and (reserving a pinch) as much of the spice blend as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be. In a large pan (nonstick, if you have one), heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the seasoned chicken. Cook 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board to cool slightly. Wipe out the pan.

While the chicken cooks, add the sour cream and remaining spice blend to the diced onion-lime juice mixture. Stir to thoroughly combine; season with salt and pepper to taste.

When cool enough to handle, thinly slice the cooked chicken. Place the bottoms of the rolls, cut sides up, on a clean, dry work surface. Divide the sliced chickenavocado, as much of the sliced onion as you’d like (you may have extra), the tomato, half the queso fresco and the cilantro between the roll bottoms; season with salt and pepper. Top with the juice of the remaining lime wedges and the roll tops.

In the pan used to cook the chicken, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Working in 2 batches, add the tortas. Place a heavy pot on top of the tortas to press them down. Cook, occasionally pressing down on the pot, 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until lightly browned and slightly flattened. Transfer to a cutting board or plate.

While the tortas toast, in a large bowl, combine the lettuce, pepitas,remaining queso fresco and as much of the dressing as you’d like (you may have extra dressing). Toss to combine; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut each toasted torta in half diagonally; divide between 4 plates. Serve with the salad on the side. Enjoy!

Standard Oyster Company in Hickory

Girl Nosh July was Standard Oyster Company.  We picked it because it is RESTAURANT WEEK and they were close.  And I think I’ve found a new favorite place.

The whole place is a bar.  But kind of upscale.  There are bar stools only!  So, if you have issues that might be effected by that, be aware.  Still, so cool.  The place was a little warm in there, but you know…it’s summer.  I admit though I was hot to the point of being miserable and the wait staff was sweating buckets.  Hopefully just an HVAC issue and not the way they normally keep it.

We all started with a cocktail, of course.  The best of the evening was this Bloody Beast.  That’s a kicked up Bloody Mary made with Tito’s Vodka and garnished with a couple of tiger shrimp, some bacon, olives, pickles and pickled okra and a lime.  Oh, and there was some light salt on the rim.  So so so delish!  Maybe the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever had.

For my first course, I chose the half dozen oysters on the half shell.  These were small and perfect, briny and fresh!  My preference for oysters are smaller, and not those huge ones that lop over the cracker. These were served with a tart mignonette, but I still had to have my cocktail sauce.  Perfect.

Other second courses that my friends got but I didn’t taste: Kale Salad and Seafood Gumbo.  All were pronounced delicious.

We had a limited choice of main dishes, of course, for restaurant week.  All were outstanding, though.  I chose the Seafood Risotto.  It was topped with Tiger Shrimp and Scallops and had spinach studding the risotto.  This was the best risotto I’ve ever had…at a raw bar!

This one was the catch of the day, chargrilled.  It was swordfish, served with their grit cake and sautéed greens.  It was delicious.

The Queen’s feast came with dessert, or I don’t think we’d have indulged.  We were so full!  I chose the Key Lime Pie.  I took one bite at the restaurant and it was so tangy and sweet that my cheeks puckered!  I took the rest home, and might have had it for breakfast.  The crust was homemade and it was really delicious.  The restaurant was warm, as I mentioned, and it was very melty there.  Once I had it in the fridge, it firmed right back up and was perfect.

Kathy and Sienna got the Bananas Foster.  They both said it was delicious.  I could smell the liquor on them, though.  Totally didn’t burn off..they didn’t seem to mind.

Wrap up: This new discovery is a game changer for me.  I crave fresh seafood, prepared in other ways besides frying.  This is a perfect addition to the Hickory restaurant scene.  They execute every part of their craft perfectly.  Crank that A/C down to 72 and you’ve got a fan for life 😉

 

Souper Salads

Chop and dump.  Sometimes supper is really just that easy.  Here are a few of my favorite salads:

Bucca Di Beppo Chopped Antipasto Salad

Perfect for Italian dinner.

Bucca Di Beppo Chopped Antipasto Salad

Bucca Di Beppo Chopped Antipasto Salad

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 1 ounce pepperoni, diced
  • 1 ounce mortadella, diced
  • 1 ounce red onion, diced
  • 2 ounces roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 ounces cucumbers, diced
  • 1 ounce gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 ounce pepperoncini pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 4 ounces Italian vinaigrette dressing
  • 3 pepperoncini peppers, whole
  • black olives
  • green olives

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl, except 1/2 the tomatoes, the whole pepperoncini, olives and dressing and toss.
  2. Add the dressing and toss until fully incorporated.
  3. Mound the salad mixture on a chilled plate, getting as much height as possible.
  4. Place remaining tomates around the outside of the salad.
  5. Garnish with whole pepperoncini and olives and serve

dividerflowers

“The Wedge” with homemade Ranch Dressing

WedgeSalad_zpsa82a85dc

The Wedge is one of the simplest salads ever, but looks kind of fancy and is really one of my favorites.  I core one head of lettuce (bang core on counter, it comes right out) then cut your head of lettuce into 4 wedges.  Top with your favorite things:  Mine are bacon bits, shredded cheddar and chopped tomatoes.  Drizzle with this amazing dressing:

Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (combination of parsley, chives, chervil, savory, dill or celery leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

directions

Combine ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Abe & Louie’s Salad

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 head bibb lettuce
    • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
    • 1 apple, thinly sliced
    • 4 ounces blue cheese
    • dijon vinaigrette

DIRECTIONS

  1. Wash and chop lettuce. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Top with your favorite dressing.

Printable Recipe: Abe & Louie’s Salad

Fourk in Hickory NC

Fourk was the last stop on our Girl Nosh Tour.  We had a crazy time getting there: a flat tire while traveling at 75 mph down the interstate and an hour late for our reservation.  Poor Kim waited for us at the bar 😦  But we made it and it was well worth the trouble.

Mad props to the staff.  They held our reservation for an hour and were very gracious when we finally arrived, not at all snarky.  I’ve been to other places where they’ll wait 15 minutes and give your reservation away, regardless of the circumstance, so this was a pleasant surprise, and certainly helped in turning the disastrous night around.  We sat down, breathed a sigh of relief and took a moment to look around.  The decor is the industrial/farm chic that is so popular right now.  It is very pleasant and current.  The servers are trained well and are kind, make excellent suggestions and are completely attentive to all needs.  The best service I’ve had in a very long time. But the food…that’s what makes this the perfect dining excursion.

“Daily Serving”

“Pinky Swear”

“Flaming Thai Shrimp”

“Ahi & Avocado”

“Sea ‘Pearl’ Scallop Rockefeller”

“Bruschetta”

“Baked Brie”

“French Onion Soup”

“Lobster Bisque”

“Rosemary and Lemon Chicken”

“Stuffed Chicken”

“Champagne Berry Cheesecake”

“Chocolate Cake”

So let’s talk about the food.  We each try to order different things so we can taste each other’s to form a really broad and enlightened opinion of a place.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  The appetizers came out quickly and were so good we couldn’t wait for our food.  The scallops were cooked perfectly, but the best thing about that dish was the spinach mix served as a garnish.  So flavorful!  A surprise was the tuna and avocado. I’m not a big fan of raw fish, but this was a nice balance with the spiced crust on the seared tuna, the acidic sauce and the cool, creamy avocado made it a really outstanding dish.  The Thai shrimp were crispy with a spicy sweet sauce. The brie was a different presentation, being breaded and baked.  Buttery brie spread on bread slices, who wouldn’t love that?  Kim had to have her appetizer while she waited on us to fix our flat and get to her, so we didn’t get to sample the bruschetta, but she pronounced it the best she’d ever had, citing the balsamic drizzle as the element that tipped it over the edge.

I’ve heard it said that a simple soup is the true test of a cook’s abilities.  I’ve come to believe that.   The best soup I’ve ever made was simmered all day long, and that’s what these taste like.  Made with love, expertly.  We tried three this night.  The French onion Soup was very deeply flavored with beef stock and simmered onions.  The cheese atop the brioche is just icing on the cake.  It was a really good soup.  We also tried the butternut squash soup, I didn’t take a taste, so can’t personally comment but Megan said it was really good.  The winner of the night was the lobster bisque; it was velvety and packed a punch of flavor.  Also, seasoned perfectly.  I still think about that soup.

The main dishes were all just a fabulous as we’d hoped.  I have to say that I might have enjoyed the garnish more than the protein.  My charred brussels sprouts were a real treat.  Roasting them that way gives them such a depth of flavor.  My chicken was the airline chicken, which is where the breast is boneless but still has the drummette attached.  They then cleaned the bone so it looks fancy.  I appreciate the effort.  It was delicious!

If I had one (tiny) complaint about the experience it is dessert.  I had the small chocolate cake and it was dry and underwhelming.  I was disappointed.  My friends enjoyed the cheesecake and faired a bit better, but we all agreed next time we’d skip.  Upon questioning the waitress we learned that someone else made the desserts for them, so likely that is the problem.

Don’t let that deter you.  Go!  Lunch or dinner, both are great and very comfortable.  I can’t wait to get back.
Fourk Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato